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Full text of "My country and my people"

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LITERARY   LIFE                       235
The picture technique here is perfect: the hilltops appearing as several "dots" over the wall give one a stereoscopic sense of distance from the hills. In this sense, we can understand Li Liweng (seventeenth century), when he says in one of his dramatic works:
First we look at the hills in the painting. Then we look at the painting in the hills.
The poet's eye is the painter's eye, and painting and poetry become one.
This affinity between painting and poetry is all the more natural and apparent when we consider not only their similarity of technique, but also their similarity of themes, and the fact that the title of a painting is often actually a line taken from some verse. In any case, the painter after finishing his painting usually writes a verse at the top in those vacant spaces characteristic of Chinese paintings. Of this, more later on when we discuss painting proper. But this affinity is responsible for another point in Chinese poetry, viz,, the impressionistic technique. It is a technique "which gives a series of impressions, vivid and unforgettable, and leaves merely a flavour, an indefinable feeling behind, which awakes the reader's senses but does not satisfy his understanding. Chinese poetry is consummate in the art of sublimation, suggestion and artistic restraint. The poet does not try to say all he has to say. His business is but to evoke a picture, making a pen sketch by a few swift, clear strokes.
Hence arose the great school of pastoral poets, specializing in landscape paintings and using the impressionistic technique. Such masters in pastoral poetry are T'ao Ytianming (372-427), Hsieh Lingyiin (385-433?), Wang Wei (699-759) and Wei Ingwu (740-*;. 830), but the technique is practically universal with Chinese poets. Of Wang Wei (perhaps better known as Wang Mcqhieh) it is said that "there is poetry in his painting and painting in his poetry," because Wang was a great painter himself. His WangcKuanchi is nothing but a collection of pastoral landscapes. A poem like the following can only be written by one inspired by the spirit of Chinese painting: